EXCLUSIVE: TV Land successfully jump-started its half-hour comedy business with a sitcom from a former NBC comedy star, Sean Hayes’ Hot In Cleveland. Now USA Network is looking to do the same with Kelsey Grammer. As part of USA’s push in half-hour comedy, the network has bought the single-camera project The Dicocco Brothers, executive produced by Grammer through his Grammnet Prods. Written by Ed Cannistraci based on a story by him and his brother Chris Cannistraci, The Dicocco Brothers centers around an aspiring dot-com entrepreneur who moves to Silicon Valley with his Jersey family in tow. Ed Cannistraci is executive producing with Grammer, his Grammnet producing partner Brian Sher and Stella Stolper. USA signaled its intention to get back into half-hour comedies last May when it made its first script deal in the genre in more than a decade — a single-camera comedy from Designing Women creator Linda Bloodworth starring Ron White. The network has been very selective in its half-hour development and is yet to greenlight its first half-hour comedy pilot from the new push in the genre. Besides The Dicocco Brothers, Gremmnet is co-producing with Lionsgate the Starz drama series Boss, starring Grammer and exec produced by him, Sher and Stolper, which started production in Chicago this week. “We are thrilled to embark on one of USA’s first comedies with such a prestigious production company (Grammnet) and a truly unique voice (Cannistraci brothers),” said USA’s SVP original scripted …
USA Network is looking to re-enter the half-hour comedy arena with its first script deal for a half-hour project in more than a decade. The network has put in development Driven, a single-camera comedy from Designing Women creator Linda Bloodworth. The project stars comedian Ron White as a guy who, after losing his job, starts a limo service. Bloodworth will write the script and will executive produce the project with her husband, long-time collaborator Harry Thomason.
USA’s president of original programming Jeff Wachtel said the network had been looking to expand its programming beyond its signature hourlong comedies.“We’ve had a great deal of success in the light one-hour genre, so now let’s find the next great thing for the brand,” he said. “We’re pushing in a bunch of directions, including half-hour comedy and reality.” Wachtel was quick to note that the network is not shifting its scripted development from the core one-hour fare to half-hour comedy and that agents shouldn’t be rushing to send boxes of half-hour scripts and pilots they might have lying around. “It’s a carefully staged assault; we’re not busting the door open, we’re cautiously opening the door to half-hour comedy,” he said.
There won’t be a great distinction between USA’s half-hour and hourlong comedies. Half-hour projects also will be “character-based, with an aspirational, blue-sky element to it,” Wachtel said. “More …
After focusing on comedy with series orders for Sirens and Playing House and pilot pickups for Love Is Dead and Divide & Conquer, top-rated cable network USA is making its first major move in drama this year, greenlighting an hourlong pilot from writer-producer Sean Jablonski. Produced by Universal Cable Prods., the untitled project is described as a provocative drama that follows investment banker Neil Truman and his wife Grace who are sifting through their stagnant relationship when Neil discovers that Grace is seeing a male escort and accidentally gains possession of the escort’s phone. He gains a unique perspective on his life and what motivates women, while Grace contemplates whether her needs are being met and whether her marriage is worth saving. Jablonski is executive producing the pilot with Russ Krasnoff (Community). This marks Jablonski’s return to USA and UCP where he served as executive producer/showrunner on the first season of hit drama Suits.
On the drama side, USA most recently picked up period sci-fi drama pilot Horizon last December. That project is now filming. While half-hour comedy has been a priority for USA brass in light of next month’s off-network launch of Modern Family, drama remains the network’s bread and butter, with several new hourlong pilots expected to be greenlighted shortly. Before Suits, Jablonski, repped by WME and Underground, was on FX’s Nip/Tuck for the series’ …
Greg Grunberg and Diane Farr will topline the USA Network comedy pilot Divide & Conquer, an original half-hour project from executive producer/writer Peter Ocko. USA greenlighted the Divide & Conquer pilot in May on the heels of the network making its first comedy series orders in 15 years with Sirens and Playing House and greenlighting another half-hour pilot, Love Is Dead. The original comedies are slated to premiere in first-quarter 2014 as eventual companions to Modern Family; among the newbies, Divide & Conquer is the only true family comedy that could go well with the massive off-network acquisition, which debuts September 24. Produced by Universal Cable Prods, Divide & Conquer gets into the heads of a big family: four children finding their way to adulthood in these complicated times and the parents whose lives they’re sucking dry to get there. Grunberg and Farr will play the parents: Evan is a daydreamer-turned-patent attorney who believes modern-day families are over-parenting their kids, and Charlotte is a career woman-turned-stay-at-home mom who’s trying to help her kids navigate growing up. Grunberg is repped by Resolution. Farr is repped by UTA, Silver Lining Entertainment and attorney Eric Suddleson at Nelson Felker.
As they say, for every cancelled broadcast series, like NBC’s Southland and ABC’s Cougar Town, that finds a second home, there are scores that don’t. Sony TV began exploring a possible future for its cult ABC comedy Happy Endings well in advance of the network’s May decision not to order a fourth season. USA, which is re-entering the half-hour comedy space in a big way this fall with off-network acquisition Modern Family, expressed interest dating back to early April. It entered talks with Sony immediately after ABC made the cancellation decision the Friday before upfronts. But three weeks later, I’ve learned that USA has opted not to proceed with the pickup. I hear the cable network’s brass loved the show creatively but its low ratings on ABC played a factor in the decision as it meant a large investment in marketing and promotion, money USA decided to spend on its home grown half-hour series. The network just made its first half-hour series orders in 15 years, Sirens and Playing House.
While USA was considered the only real play for Happy Endings after ABC, Sony TV is known for never giving up and finding a way to bring shows back from the dead (Unforgettable, Drop Dead Diva, Breaking In, just to name a few.) I hear the studio continues conversations with other possible distributors. With its small but rabid fan base, Happy Endings would be a good …
USA Network has greenlighted Divide & Conquer, a half-hour comedy pilot written and executive produced by Peter Ocko (Fairly Legal, The Office). The pickup comes on the heels of USA last week making its first comedy series orders in 15 years with Sirens and Playing House and greenlighting half-hour pilot Love Is Dead. USA’s original comedy strategy is built around the network’s off-network acquisition of Modern Family, which launches on USA in September. USA’s first original comedies are slated to premiere in first quarter 2014 as companions to Modern Family. Among Sirens, Playing House, Love Is Dead and Divide & Conquer, Divide & Conquer is the only true family comedy that could go well with Modern Family. Produced by Universal Cable Prods, it gets into the heads of a big family: four children finding their way to adulthood in these complicated times, and the parents whose lives they’re sucking dry to get there. In addition to its development, USA also is considering a pickup of recently cancelled cult ABC comedy Happy Endings, which looks promising, and is taking another crack at pilot Paging Dr. Freed. Ocko is with Vision Art.
USA Network unveiled its drama development slate today and said it will start production this summer on the pilot Horizon, the period genre drama from The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd that the network pushed in February. The new slate (see the full list below) includes Complications, the latest from Burn Notice‘s Matt Nix; the new Rob Thomas project Blanco County; and works from Doug Liman and David Semel. The news comes on the heels of the network’s newest original series, the Jeff Eastin-created Graceland, joining the summer drama schedule with a premiere set for June 6.
Comedy is expected to take center stage at USA Network‘s upfront presentation this afternoon as the cable network touts to advertisers the fall launch of its big off-network acquisition, Modern Family, and unveils its newly picked up original comedy series Sirens and Playing House. The cable network has been getting extra attention from comedy fans in the past week following ABC’s decision last Friday to cancel cult series Happy Endings. Talks between USA and leading Happy Endings producer Sony TV continue. At this point, I hear a pickup appears unlikely but the network is carefully exploring the opportunity to migrate a show with some success on broadcast TV and a dedicated fan base the way ABC’s Cougar Town moved to TBS.
Of its three comedy pilot/presentations it had in consideration, USA picked up two, Sirens and Playing House. The third, Paging Dr. Freed, which was the first one ordered almost two years ago, is still in contention. I hear USA brass liked the pilot for the family medical comedy but thought it felt more like a season finale and didn’t properly introduce the characters. I hear the network approached Paging Dr. Freed creator Michael Feldman and studio Fox 21 about redeveloping the project and writing a new pilot script. If USA likes the new script, I hear it is intent on picking up the project straight to series. The options on the Paging Dr. Freed producers have been extended while those on the cast have lapsed. I hear USA is keen on bringing Annie Potts back if she is available. (Her ABC pilot Murder In Manhattan did not get picked up but is being considered by cable networks.)
Three years after USA Network signaled a move into half-hour comedy with the off-network acquisition of Modern Family and three months before the ABC comedy is to launch on the cable network, USA has greenlighted its first original half-hour comedies in some 15 years: the single-camera Sirens from Denis Leary and Bob Fisher and Playing House, from Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. Additionally, USA, which is holding its upfront today, has picked up single-camera half-hour comedy pilot Love Is Dead, from writer Zev Borow. USA’s other half-hour pilot, Paging Dr. Freed, is still alive. And USA is in conversations about picking up ABC comedy series Happy Endings.
Sirens and Playing House will premiere in the first quarter of 2014 as companions to Modern Family, which is set to bow on USA on September 24. “With Modern Family joining our lineup in the fall, we can leverage television’s most popular comedy to serve as a powerful launch pad for new originals in this genre,” said USA’s co-president Chris McCumber. Added co-president Jeff Wachtel, “Our new series come from some of the best comedic talent in the business, and reflect USA’s style — with great characters, strong execution and compelling storytelling.” USA ran several half-hour comedies under the network’s old regime in the 1990s, including Weird Science, USA High and Campus Cops, before USA rebuilt its brand as a home of light, character-driven hourlong series over the past decade.
As expected, ABC has cancelled Happy Endings after three seasons. But not all is lost for the cult comedy. Sony TV, the leading studio behind the underrated comedy series, had reached out to a couple of networks, including USA, about the possibility of continuing the comedy there if ABC did not renew it. USA, which has been looking to break into the half-hour original series space, had expressed interest and has had discussions about picking up Happy Endings in case of a cancellation. No real conversations had been held, with the series now officially available, such are expected to begin.
If the financials can be worked out, a Happy Endings pickup would be fortuitous for USA, which has been actively developing half-hour comedies and has ordered several pilots but has yet to greenlight a half-hour series. USA had been looking to have an original comedy on tap for the fall premiere of its marquee off-network series Modern Family. Happy Endings would be a suitable companion for Modern Family as it already spent two seasons on ABC paired with the Emmy-winning family comedy. Happy Endings did well behind Modern Family, but its fortunes changed this past fall when it was moved to Tuesday to form a comedy block with Don’t Trust The B—- At Apt. 23 in a crowded comedy hour. Despite strong cult following and critical praise, Happy Endings struggled mightily on Tuesday and in its last Friday slot. ABC brass had been strongly supporting the show …
Primetime Pilot Panic: Broadcast Networks Are Very Happy With Their Comedy Pilots; How Much Should Bubble Shows Worry?
After the fall failed to produce a single breakout new comedy series this year, the networks went back to the drawing board and doubled their comedy efforts. That has resulted in a glut of well-received comedy pilots that undoubtedly will lead to some tough choices in the next 10 days. The issue is not as pronounced at Fox, whose pilot volume is smaller as are its comedy needs. Plus, the network already has picked up everything it had an intention of keeping for next season. (Sorry, Touch.) At CBS, the crowded comedy field features at least five very strong contenders — Chuck Lorre’s Mom, Greg Garcia’s multi-camera pilot, Friends With Better Lives, Crazy Ones and the Rob Greenberg project — with several others capable of an upset. The network, an epitome of stability, is not known for splurging on new series; last year it only picked up two new comedies. And with 19 programs already renewed, including five comedy series, the influx of strong comedy pilots does not bode well for any remaining CBS bubble shows, especially if the network opts to expand its existing comedy blocks to accommodate more half-hour series. That includes Vegas, whose poor performance on Friday already sealed its fate; veterans Rules Of Engagement and CSI: NY, which also had been unlikely to continue; and freshman Golden Boy. …
USA Network continues its push in half-hour comedy. The cable network has bought Smother, a project from writers Jeremy Miller & Dan Cohn, Universal TV and Peter Traugott’s studio-based TBD Prods about a 30-year-old man who has three moms after his mother and father both marry other women. When he has to go back to living at home, all three moms take control of his financial, professional and personal life. Miller and Cohn executive produce alongside Traugott and Rachel Kaplan of TBD, Brad Epstein of Panther Films and Margaret Riley of Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Traugott and Riley began working on the idea while Traugott was still at Brillstein, with the project ultimately landing at Uni TV after Traugott set up shop there.
EXCLUSIVE: Despite ratings hardship and real and clear danger of cancellation, Happy Endings may live up to its title even if ABC opts not to order a fourth season. I hear that Sony TV, the leading studio behind the underrated comedy series, has quietly reached out to a couple of networks, including USA Network and NBC, about the possibility of continuing the comedy there if ABC does not renew it. I hear USA, which has been looking to break into the half-hour original series space, has expressed interest and has had discussions about picking up Happy Endings in case of a cancellation by ABC.
If the financials can be worked out, a Happy Endings pickup would be fortuitous for USA, which has been actively developing half-hour comedies and has ordered several pilots but has yet to greenlight a half-hour series. USA had been looking to have an original comedy on tap for the fall premiere of its marquee off-network series Modern Family. Happy Endings would be a suitable companion for Modern Family as it already spent two seasons on ABC paired with the Emmy-winning family comedy. Happy Endings did well behind Modern Family, but its fortunes changed this past fall when it was moved to Tuesday to form a comedy block with Don’t Trust The B—- At Apt. 23 in a crowded comedy hour. Despite strong cult following and critical praise, Happy Endings struggled mightily on Tuesday and was recently relocated to Fridays. ABC brass had been strongly supporting the show from Day 1, but they will likely won’t be able to keep the series on broadcast TV at these ratings levels. In a last-ditch effort, the network recently launched a Save The Show-themed promo campaign for Happy Endings‘ move to Friday. The call to arms didn’t help, with the two back-to-back Friday originals drawing a 0.9/3 and a 0.7/3 in adults 18-49, down 25% and 46% from the show’s last Tuesday airings on January 29.
‘Royal Pains’ Andrew Lenchewski & Michael Rauch Ink New Overall Deals With Universal Cable Prods, Set Up Projects At USA
EXCLUSIVE: As production on the fifth season of USA Network hit Royal Pains begins, the series’ executive producers and showrunners Andrew Lenchewski and Michael Rauch have renewed their individual overall deals with the studio behind it, Universal Cable Prods. Under the pacts, Lenchewski and Rauch will continue to oversee the series starring Mark Feuerstein. Additionally, Rauch and Lenchewski each have projects in development at USA.
Rauch will executive produce a family drama, written and co-executive produced by Ken Lin, following two brothers (one an ex-con, the other a small-town cop) who inherit their failing family business and turn it into a multibillion-dollar cult pyramid scheme. As they reunite and re-tie family bonds, they navigate the dangers inherent in selling the most addictive, seductive, and volatile substance in the world: hope. Lenchewski will executive produce and write drama American Confidential, in which a principled Secret Service agent is forced by the White House to cover up secret after secret. The show explores the toll that deception takes on him. UCP will produce with Doug Liman and Dave Bartis’ studio-based pod Hypnotic. Additionally, Lenchewski executive produces previously announced USA half-hour single-camera comedy project Speak American, written/co-exec produced by Benjamin Brand.
Cartoon Network brass have decided to scrap this year’s formal upfront presentation. Instead, they are going on the road for “in front” presentations for clients and promotional partners in more than 15 cities. The Cartoon Network Road Tour starts the week of January 21 and will continue into March. Along with its presentation, the network also plans to “take over” the building at each of its visits with Cartoon Network-branded imagery and giveaways. The strategy has been employed before, most notably by NBC under Ben Silverman.
At the meetings, Cartoon Network will tout its ratings growth in 2012, which became the network’s most-watched year in Prime in its 20-year history, and will present its upcoming slate, which marks a shift from live-action back to the network’s core animated fare. It includes three quarterly installment specials of The Yoda Chronicles, a new CG-animated foray into the “Original Saga” world of Star Wars. Cartoon Network also airs Clone Wars. Given Disney’s recent acquisition of LucasFilm, it is probably a matter of time before all Star Wars animated programming gets funneled to Disney Jr. and Disney XD.
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Before today’s TCA panel on USA‘s new series Graceland, USA co-presidents Chris McCumber and Jeff Wachtel touted the network’s scripted series as their “signature strength.” They added that USA Network will be “diving into comedy in a big way in 2013” and hailed the addition of a “small show called Modern Family as an important part of our lineup.”
After the session, McCumber added that comedy “is an area that we’ve always wanted to move into, comedy has been a part of what we do; take a look at Psych, it’s always been in our DNA,” McCumber said. “When we have this platform we should be able to launch a true comedy series off of, we’d be crazy not to look at the half-hour world. It’s going to be a tough nut to crack, comedy is just a little more difficult.”
Five of the projects are through Universal Cable Prods., where Tagline has a first-look deal and a long-term relationship through Psych, Tagline’s first series, which will hit the 100-episode mark in its upcoming seventh season on USA. Tagline’s new projects with the studio have been sold to both USA and outside networks as part of UCP’s mandate to become a supplier to all networks.
At ABC, the companies have The Lisa Jones Club, a drama with dark comedic overtones written and co-executive produced by Barbara Marshall (Terra Nova). The project, which was sold on spec, revolves around down-on-their-luck suburban wives who embark on a criminal spree to make ends meet. Marshall is with APA and Industry Entertainment.
USA Network has cast the four leads in the Denis Leary comedy pilot Sirens: Michael Mosley (Pan Am, Scrubs), Kevin Daniels (Modern Family), Kevin Bigley and Jessica McNamee. Co-created by Leary and Bob Fisher, Sirens follows three of Chicago’s best EMTs — Johnny (Mosley), Hank (Daniels) and Brian (Bigley) — whose sometimes self-loathing, other times narcissistic, and always downright self-destructive personalities make them unqualified for sustaining relationships, friendships and most occupations. They are, however, uniquely qualified for saving anyone unlucky enough to wind up in their ambulance.
EXCLUSIVE: USA Network is expanding its relationship with the creators of two of its most successful series. The cable network has put in development a drama executive produced by Psych creator Steve Franks and a half-hour comedy executive produced by Royal Pains co-creator Andrew Lenchewski. Both projects hail from Universal Cable Prods where Franks and Lenchewski are under overall deals.